Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985) Cleopatra 55 x 45 cm.
Lot 82
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985) Cleopatra 55 x 45 cm.
Sold for £96,000 (US$ 150,550) inc. premium

Lot Details
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Cleopatra
signed in Greek and dated '68' (lower right)
oil on canvas
55 x 45 cm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    Private collection, Athens.

    Exhibited:
    Athens, Institut Français d' Athènes, One man show, no 25, 1987 (illustrated in the catalogue).

    Literature:
    Katerina Perpinioti Agazir, Nikos Engonopoulos - His Pictorial Universe, Benaki Museum publications, Athens 2007, no 929, p. 356 (illustrated).
    Nikos Engonopoulos, The Angels in Heaven Speak Greek, Interviews, Comments and Opinions, Ypsilon publications, Athens 1999 (fig 1 and cover illustration).
    Diavazo journal, no 478, October 2007, p. 92 (illustrated).
    Interviews, 1999, no 1.
    Eleftherotypia newspaper, December 19, 1999.
    TO VIMA newspaper, December 21, 1999.
    AVGI newspaper, March 20, 2003.

    I love the bodies of women.
    With their breasts they eliminate our loneliness.

    Nikos Engonopoulos

    Women, always beautiful and seductive, were a constant source of inspiration throughout Engonopoulos’ career, a fundamental subject in both his painting and poetry. “I adore female bodies” the painter himself declared.1 Often these bodies, according to art critic B. Spiliadi, are fully dressed and their importance in the artist’s work must be stressed. By means of its costume, each faceless body acquires its own unique personality.2 “Anyone,” noted Engonopoulos, “may substitute the face of his choice.”3

    According to K. Perpinioti-Agazir who prepared the artist’s recently published catalogue raisonné, in the 1955-1973 period, during which Engonopoulos’ painting became widely recognised, “the artist produced the only two historical female figures in his 50-year oeuvre, namely La Très Noble Dame Élisabeth Moutzan Martinegou (the first modern Greek woman writer) in 1956 and Cleopatra in 1968.”4

    Elegant, mysterious and utterly seductive, Cleopatra has always been a symbol of the eternal woman and the eternal symbol of an alluring, sybaritic and irrational Orient, as perceived in the West. As a legendary figure in her own right, she stands for all those things ancient and exotic, legendary and lost, mythical and historical. Wild and charismatic, she represents a Dionysian world-view, which is natural and expressive, highly imaginative and visionary sensual. Cleopatra (c. 69-30 BC), the daughter of Ptolemy XII Auletes, King of Egypt, was the last member of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt during the Hellenistic period, from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC until it became a Roman province in 30 BC. Despite common misconception, the ‘Queen of the Nile’ was Greek, as were all the Pharaohs in the Ptolemy line.

    Alluding to Cleopatra’s celebrated love affairs with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, Engonopoulos sets his visual act in a theatrical stage reminiscent of a Roman odeum, the roofed theatre in which poets submitted their works and contended for prizes. Moreover, the stone structure with rows of arches in the background, which recalls the backdrop for the palace sets Engonopoulos designed in 1962 for George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra5, is an homage to Giorgio de Chirico’s famous arcaded piazzas (compare The Enigma of a Day, 1914, Museum of Modern Art, New York), painted in the period when the great Italian’s surrealist eye envisioned subversively irrational images.

    Exploring the uncharted pathways of the mind, Engonopoulos sets up a system of poetic metaphor, bringing together Cleopatra, as a symbol of irrational thought, and de Chirico as a true master of surrealist dreamscapes. However, as noted by former Athens National Gallery Director D. Papastamos, “Engonopoulos’ art is not imbued by de Chirico’s metaphysical atmosphere that so captivated the Greek painter. Engonopoulos’ heroes do not quest, they are not ‘disquieted’; on the contrary they fully experience an every day reality still bound with tradition and eastern myths.”6 Although de Chirico’s influence is detectable, Engonopoulos’ faceless human figure departs from the iconography of the mannequin as featured in the work of the Italian artist. As noted by N. Loizidi, an expert on surrealism, “above all, the Greek painter’s mannequins are not generic androgynous figures but persons with clearly defined gender characteristics. Women are represented with voluptuous curves and daringly rendered nipples.”7

    1. Interview to Manna journal, no. 5, 1974, pp. 34-38.
    2.Β. Spiliadi, ‘An Interview with N. Engonopoulos’ [in Greek], Kathimerini daily, 12/13.4.1981.
    3. Interview to Manna.
    4. K. Perpinioti-Agazir, Nikos Engonopoulos, Son Univers Pictural, exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonée, Benaki Museum, Athens 2007, p. 98.
    5. See Design or Colour, Stage Sets and Costumes by Nikos Engonopoulos 1937-1965 [in Greek], Ikaros publ., Athens 2007, fig. 10, 11.
    6. D. Papastamos, preface in the Nikos Engonopoulos retrospective exhibition catalogue [in Greek], National Gallery-A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 1983, p. 8.
    7. N. Loizidi, 'Regarding Jef, Midnight’s Great Automaton' [in Greek] in Location: Engonopoulos, exhibition catalogue, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki 2007, p.11.
Auction information

This sale is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future sales, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this sale, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, check with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveler's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Similar Items